director Michael Reeves
Known mostly for his last finished film, Witchfinder General (1968), Michael Reeves didn’t live long enough to build much of filmography. But it is the quality of Witchfinder General that has endured and thus made Reeves’s tragically short life one of those obscure tidbits of horror film history.
It’s also what led me to dig up The She Beast.
Actually I started to watch an incredibly beat-up version of the film on a DVD, only to really bethink myself that I was willing to bet a better version was out there on YouTube. And indeed there was. If anything, it’s underscored the importance of making sure that any worthwhile film is seen in its best available context and further reason that film restoration is so important.
Because The She Beast, even restored, isn’t a great film. But it’s interesting, slightly weird, and vaguely comic. And the restoration done makes a world of difference.
It stars the magnificently gorgeous Barbara Steele though there is all too little of her in it. It’s about a hideously ugly witch who was drowned in a lake (somewhere in Transylvania?), brought back to life by a doddering Van Helsing, and possessing a young newlywed (Steele).
I have no idea if it was seen by Roman Polanski, but it seems quite the template for his The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), strange semi-gothic horror comedy that it is.
Surely, no one would be remembering Reeves if this was his only film, but as part of what might have been, not the worst starting point for a directorial career.